I received this message while sitting in a HUGE traffic jam on my way to present information from the White Privilege Conference to my school board. I sat and read. What a treat. Once again, I'm copying and pasting. Mr. SillyPants is burning the candle at both ends - this gig is completely engrossing for him. Read.
We had a very emotional and fulfilling day today; this was the day that we certified instructors for the ALSO course and prepared them for their presentations tomorrow to a new group of students. It was a long and arduous day, with examinations lasting until the mid-evening. However, the success of the training was quite evident and we realized that this program we are teaching will undoubtedly make a difference.
Ethiopia unfortunately ranks as the 6th worst in terms of infant mortality worldwide. Infants are 1000 times more likely to die in childbirth here than in the United States. This is not due to the quality of training here; in fact, the obstetricians, general practitioners and midwives here are VERY well trained. As we taught our curriculum, we could see constant nodding (not due to sleepiness but *understanding*!). These medical providers KNOW this stuff.
The problem is one of access to healthcare. There are more Ethiopian doctors in Chicago or Los Angeles than there are in all of Ethiopia. Stated another way, there are 2000 physicians in Ethiopia, serving 80 million people. That's one doctor for every 40,000 people (consider THAT when you think about scheduling your next doctor's appointment).
At the end of today's training, providers thanked us, with teary eyes, for presenting a system which could be easily taught in areas throughout Ethiopia; that, actually is the goal of the ALSO course - - - providing a learnable curriculum which can be used in a variety of settings. Many of the attendees voiced their plans to implement and teach this curriculum in their communities as soon as possible.
This was emotional and overwhelming to me, in fact, it took me to the point of tears. (Those who know me understand I'm a little emotional, anyway). I was so moved because I realized the enormity of the need here in Ethiopia. And, I was humbled by the fact that there is so much that I take for granted.
My hope and prayer is that these talented and committed providers here in Ethiopia will have new tools to "make a difference."
So, the other reason I'm really wound up is that Richard and I finally had a chance to meet. I didn't get back to the Hilton until 9pm, but Richard took a long cab to come to the Hilton for a drink. (He had Coke, I had a somewhat grainy and disappointing Merlot). We talked for nearly two hours and, frankly,he had me choked up a few times.
Richard, who calls himself "our son", is doing very well. I think he was initially quite worried about misleading us, in fact, he apologized again and again for saying he was in medical school when, in fact, he only qualified for nursing school. Of course, as you probably already know, my response was that you and I were so proud of him and were not angry at all. In fact, I told him that we understood why he thought we might be "disappointed" but wished, instead, that he had realized we would be as happy with his admission to nursing school as to medical school.
He was visibly relieved, but he felt the need to apologize over and over.
He was also so FUNNY - - - I think he felt the need to "prove" that he was doing well in school. When he heard I was here teaching obstetrics, he interrupted me to say, "Oh yes! We are learning about first stage, second stage and third stage of labor, plus the problems with descent of the fetus and bleeding and other complications of pregnancy." (Truthfully, he KNOWS this stuff. I have no doubt that he is doing well in his classes - - -he again demonstrated his hard work.)
Perhaps the most moving moment was when he stated that he realizes that he is "lucky to receive this gift of education"; he said that "most people in my country never have this chance - - - this is a great responsibility to me, to give back to my country in any way I can." I responded with one of the only Amharic words I know: "Ishi". (I understand.).
I told Richard that we were "so happy to be a small part of his success"; however, I think that the major part of his success is his determination, his skill and his motivation to "do good in Ethiopia." (his words).
Through a short, two-week trip to Ethiopia, we met Richard, Getnet, Getu, Alemtsehaye, and, of course, our amazing Blueberry, and these connecttions have changed us forever. For our family, the sponsorship of Richard, Getnet and Getu is but a small inconvenience. In fact, I doubt we ever feel the "pinch" of their requirements. (Our support of our 2 kids in college takes much more planning - - - yes?). Yet, I see what a difference this small contribution makes in the lives of our good friends here in Ethiopia.
It is late in Addis Ababa - I must say 'goodnight' and leave additional details for another e-mail/blog post.